Sunday, September 03, 2006
Diminishing Marginal Returns in History
Those who study or teach economics are familiar with the concept of diminishing marginal returns. It is a simple concept, when you are investing in an enterprise the contribution of your dollars to production starts to decline after a certain point. An extra dollar contribution to production is less than the last dollar you have already spent. Surprisingly it seems this concept also applies to implementing force.
History is full of such examples, when large forces failed while small ones succeeded. When Napoleon invaded Russia with 600’000 soldiers many thought the large number of his army guaranteed the victorious result. The history recorded the outcome differently.
The reality is that the amount of force a government applies does not influence the outcome completely. It does so partially or at best with decreasing rate of return. There are several other factors.
Although the technological advances have made military machines magnificent and the armaments most lethal, it seems that these also have their limits and their point of declining marginal returns.
The Economist recent article on air power could be read with this microeconomic concept in mind.